My Fragmented Life, Sewn Together:
A Foundation for my Post-Partum Identity
Pieces of Me
When I became a stay-at-home mother, I was severely overwhelmed by motherhood, both in concept and in practice. It took me a long time before I started feeling capable of taking care of Baby Bear and a bit more time to feel capable of doing anything else at the same time.
When I was finally able to come up for air and start being somewhat myself again, I frighteningly saw I didn’t really know who that was anymore.
Who was I before this baby?
How did I lose myself?
And how would I piece myself back together, whole, to begin this new life?
I asked myself these questions and came up with a practical way to weave my wisdom into a much needed household item, a new skill, and a magical source of power and strength.
Question 1: Who Was I Before This Baby?
The Eternal Traveler
My entire adult life has consisted of seasonal work, traveling from place to place every 4 to 6 months. I have been a park ranger, a forest ranger, a volunteer organic farmer, a ski bum, and a solo traveler in between.
I have lived in various towns all over Alaska, as well as in Utah, Hawaii, and France. I have traveled by plane, car, ferry, cruise ship, as well as many trips by train up, down, and across the US & Canada.
Hell, I’ve even crossed a glacier on foot!
There was always so much to do wherever I was—and so little room in my backpack—that I never had the space or the time to devote to any hobbies or interests that weren’t super portable. My main hobby was dreaming and doodling and planning my next adventure.
That and “letting the good times roll,” staring at the stars, and living the dream of the wandering, untethered youth.
And I made friends as I went—easy to do in seasonal towns where there are always new faces—forming new social worlds wherever I was.
I mainly defined myself by my last, current, and next location/job, rather than by strong interests and pursuits, because frankly, I didn’t have time or space for them.
Question 2: How Did I Lose Myself?
Settle down, now!
When I became pregnant (surprise!), the Commodore and I left Alaska for the lower-48 so that we would have more options for the pregnancy and birth and also to spend time with the Commodore’s mother who was ill.
The change was a complete reversal of my former life.
Personally, I needed a few more years to live out my adventures, to keep exploring, and to come face to face with the authentic Olive. I hadn’t quite gotten there yet before I became a mother.
By adding that important identity to my already vague personal identity, being a mother and only a mother took over, and I lost any sense of self I had left.
Those of you who have had newborns can likely relate.
To add to my confusion and isolation, I suddenly found myself in a permanent town where permanent people were established with their permanent jobs and permanent friends. People aren’t exactly looking to expand their circles, as is the case in the greater seasonal lifestyle community.
The breaking in process has been extremely difficult, I still don’t feel like I belong, and I still can’t claim any friends here after over a year of living here.
It left me a lot of time to think by myself about myself, or rather, who I wanted to be.
Question 3: How Do I Piece Myself Back Together?
Fragmented Life, Sewn Together
I spent much of Baby Bears newbornness dreaming up what my next steps would be, much like I used to dream up my next adventures. I checked out dozens upon dozens of books from the library, and with some help from the Divine, starting planning out a new life.
Yet, I was overwhelming myself with too many new interests, introducing too many learning curves, that I was left with frustration and little energy to fully devote to any of them.
AND, without a foundation upon which to lay the new bricks, nothing I tried to do was able to hold me up. I felt fragmented and detached, motivation was difficult to keep, and I truly felt like I was trying to build a house from playing cards.
I knew I needed to do something to get it together, but apart from a Shamanic soul retrieval (which I am not opposed to trying, too), I wasn’t quite sure how to do that.
The Answer Arrives
Then, like an Otherworldly thunderbolt of inspiration, it came to me:
A POWER QUILT!
A POWER QUILT, as the symbolic foundation for the Wild Woman I am becoming, holds together the fragmented pieces of my identity I still can grasp. A cool yet warm cottony color explosion that I wrap myself in when I am in Dreamland, or a soft tissue to soak up my tears when I feel I am falling apart. A magic creation that brings me inspiration and strength, and unlike a garden or a mountain range, it can always come with me, no matter where I find myself.
The idea of making a quilt had been rolling around in the back of my mind for a while, but for an altogether different reason. I disliked the synthetic blankets we’d been using as they could get much too hot and also weren’t natural, but we only had a couple of outdated cotton comforters to use instead, also filled with synthetic fibers. I thought of making a cotton quilt to replace them, especially since summer was coming. I’d also thought of making Baby Bear a baby quilt as a keepsake.
But when I locked in on this idea of making it as a symbolic expression of my identity, a way literally to piece my life together (seriously, it’s called PIECING!), that I could wrap myself in like a magical Technicolor dream coat or adult-sized security blanket, I knew it was divine inspiration.
Final Question: Uh, How Do I Make A Quilt?
The Challenge Ahead
I’ve never made a quilt before,
I’m not the greatest sewer,
and I have no patience.
A formula for success, you say?
I’ve decided to go into this with an attitude of openness, letting Divine hands guide my own, and with a willingness to get better and learn patience and perseverance. By choosing this project of creating a symbolic foundation, there is a sense of great purpose and importance in learning this new skill/interest that washes away some of the overwhelm I felt before when I had ten different new skills I wanted to learn. I have also decided to err on the side of my instinct and intuition rather than the rigid rules of perfect quilting experts.
In practical terms:
I went to the library and checked out some books on quilting for the basics & inspiration, went down to the local quilt shop to pick out some more fabrics that were representative of places I’d been and things I’d done that were meaningful to me. Then I ordered some needles, rulers, and a quilting machine foot online.
I already had a sewing machine and a basic sewing kit (barely used since I’ve never had a good place to set it up,) many self-healing mats and rotary cutters from the Commodore’s mother, and some quilting fabrics I’d bought long ago in Juneau.
Currently still waiting on the machine foot and might need to collect a few more fabrics, but I’ve washed all the ones I have currently and am getting a new iron tomorrow so I can start cutting my pieces out.
Although I should probably finish designing my quilt first before I start cutting!
I am unsure of how long this will take, or if I will continue to tackle many other projects before it is complete, but I have a feeling once it is a bit underway, I will be able to move ahead as my foundation is laid. When complete, I will add a separate post in a “how to” format for anyone who might want some guidance in making their own “power quilt”.
Hopefully my thread will be strong and I can piece myself back together!
I will keep you all updated as I progress.
Love & Light
♥ Moon Bear Woman